Valpo volleyball fifth-year libero Rylee Cookerly (Brownsburg, Ind./Brownsburg) reached the top of the mountain that is the program’s career digs chart Friday evening at Southern Illinois, surpassing Taylor Root’s program record in the category as the Beacons earned a win in their conference opener over the Salukis, 3-1 (25-18, 21-25, 25-21, 25-17).
How It Happened
- The key portion of the opening set came right out of the gate, as Valpo scored the first six points of the match. Senior Haley Hart (Frankfort, Ill./Lincoln-Way East) had three blocks and a kill during that run, which gave the Beacons the lead for good. While Valpo never trailed, SIU did close to within one point twice during the half of the frame before Valpo pulled away late.
- A 5-1 spurt early in set two gave the Salukis control en route to tying the match, as the Beacons got no closer than two points in the late stages of the frame.
- Six blocks in the third set helped Valpo earn the set victory and go up 2-1 in the match. A tight frame, Valpo led just 21-20 late before scoring four of the last five points of the set, three of which came on kills from Hart.
- Tied 7-7 in the fourth set, a 9-2 run — which included two kills and a block by junior Maddy Boyer (Batavia, Ill./Batavia) — put Valpo in the driver’s seat with a 16-9 advantage. SIU got no closer than four points the rest of the way as the Beacons closed the conference-opening win.
Inside the Match
- Cookerly first matched Taylor Root with her 2,752nd career dig and then surpassed her with dig number 2,753 early in the third set on Friday. Besides passing Root for the program record in the category, Cookerly moved into fifth place in NCAA history.
- Cookerly ended the match with 2,760 career digs, 18 shy of Courtney Pence for the MVC career record and fourth place in NCAA history.
- Perhaps the most impressive note around Cookerly breaking the Valpo career digs record is the legacy of Valpo’s liberos. The program has employed just five regular liberos since the institution of the position in 2002, the last four starting at libero from early on in their freshman years. Each of Valpo’s last four liberos have racked up at least 2,200 career digs.
- Outside of Cookerly’s record-breaking performance, the story on Friday was the play of Hart on both sides of the ball. The senior was just one off her career high for kills, hitting .538 with 15 kills, and also tied for team-high honors with six blocks.
- The defense at the net was a big part of the victory, as Valpo totaled 14 total team blocks and limited SIU to .068 hitting. The 14 blocks marked the highest total for the program since recording 16 at Illinois State on Nov. 15, 2019.
- Boyer tied Hart for team-high honors and set a career best with six rejections. Meanwhile, fifth-year middle Peyton McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Seton) and junior Kara Cooper (LaPorte, Ind./LaPorte) were in on five blocks apiece.
- Junior Bella Ravotto (Mishawaka, Ind./Marian) backed up Hart offensively with 14 kills and notched 14 digs defensively as well. It was Ravotto’s fifth double-double of the year, all of which have come in Valpo wins.
- Fifth-year setter Brittany Anderson (East Chicago, Ind./Bishop Noll) handed out 27 assists Friday, while sophomore Victoria Bulmahn (McCordsville, Ind./Mt. Vernon) registered 17 assists and 10 digs.
- Valpo has reached double figures in victories before suffering its third loss for the seventh time in the tenure of head coach Carin Avery.
- This marks just the second time in five seasons in the MVC that Valpo has opened the conference slate with a victory. The 2018 squad won its opener against Indiana State as part of a 4-0 start to MVC play.
Valpo (10-2, 1-0 MVC) concludes the conference-opening road trip Saturday at Missouri State. First serve is slated for 5 p.m., and the match can be seen live on ESPN3.